It only took a second directorial film for Ridley Scott to introduce the true meaning of horror with Alien. His vivid and graphically gut wrenching exploration of a non-human species cement the notion that audiences enjoy the thrill of being terrified to the core. The consumption of living in the unknown is outweighed by life ending in an extremely bloody way, which in an odd way acts as a feeling of excitement. Gore aside, the franchise touches upon the philosophical discourse of human makers. Its sequel Aliens, along with its prequel Prometheus provides questions about humanity, yet as the story continues the uncertainty remains unanswered.
In that sense, Alien: Covenant is here, ready to gain your respect by piecing together the disappointing loose ends of 2012’s Prometheus. Narratively, it mirrors a similar journey of delving into the background of the mysterious Engineers and the chronicles of how they created mankind. However, the backstory of humanity seems less explored when faced with their secondary creation, the Xenomorph, and a brand new breed named Neomorphs.
Covenant, in fact, is something we all needed from Scott. By now we know that the infection begins microscopic and continues to adapt, until it matures finding the perfect time to begin the horror show. The visuals of the parasite on its journey of self-creation by travelling through the ear and bloodstream of its first victim, Ledward (Benjamin Rigby), initiates the increase of the audiences’ heart rate – hopefully at this point they realise that this is no Prometheus part two.
The revival of classical Alien conventions makes Covenant not only a film but a welcome home party, it’s refreshing to see elements of gore return to the heart of the franchise. Every second projects an indescribable sense of dread that whilst watching it a cold chill will rush through you, something that resonates with the suspense of the original 1979 film. It’s a tale of chaos that involves a nice display of gun sparks in the dark, a slippery slope of blood and alien’s free-bursting out of every part of the body imaginable.
An alarming disaster with the colony ship – while it is on course to safely reach a potential habitable planet, in an attempt to begin colonising for future life – see’s us being introduced to the crew of Covenant as they awake from hyper-sleep seven years too early. When repairing the ship to its natural state, Tennessee (Danny McBride) receives an unexpected transmission. The signal, despite being dismissed as merely space noise, shows a faint figure that resembles Dr Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) – the only human survivor of Prometheus. Distorted as it appears, to the audience it’s a clear indicator that things aren’t what they seem. The Covenant crew may be searching for a new way to live life but it seems their future is going to be cut short.
Alien: Covenant isn’t your typical space adventure thriller, it’s a film about people’s trust in faith. Scott returning as director clearly emphasises that this type of faith doesn’t have a happy start, middle or end in his world of uncharted paradises.
Billy Crudup’s Oram is one to have his faith turn against him; as a scientist on the ship who struggles with his own personal faith, it is challenged by his seriousness that Covenant’s colonising mission is an ‘act of providence,’ with the aim it will bring him closer to higher power. The unbalance of his beliefs is fascinating when it transforms into self-weakness, ultimately seeing him contribute to the many deadly decisions that makes this film the ultimate Alien come back.
Faith links to purpose and with that marks the return of our favourite menacing Android, David (Michael Fassbender) – who in Prometheus was fighting to create his own meaning of life, one without humans with actual emotions getting in the way of his desire for power. Similar to the return of the Xenomorph, David really flourishes and makes his comeback just as frightening. If this is our futures technology, then we certainly have something to fear for; allowing an inhuman to believe their qualities are more advanced in procreation is one recurring nightmare.
Covenant permits Fassbender to shine by allowing him to contradict his role as David with another and more updated android named Walter, who positively doesn’t share the demoralizing traits that David possesses. Scott evidently understands his female audience’s needs with a scene that technically incorporates a Fassbender versus Fassbender brawl; with the technical advancements we have in filmmaking today, it’s alarmingly clever to see the contrast of these identical characters as they interact.
— Alien: Covenant (@AlienAnthology) May 15, 2017
Three years after receiving high – and rightly deserved – recognition for her role as Shasta Fay Hepworth in Inherent Vice, Katherine Waterston is poised to be the one to step up and take control of the fatal situation on board Covenant. By that, meaning she’s the only crew member to want to get vengeance for her murdered friends and shows exceptional bravery by going up against the mighty Xenomorph. Her character, Daniels, buries her sudden grief at the start of the film and transforms into the natural leader the ship ultimately needed at the start. “I got you, you son-of-a-bitch,” a line that marks an outburst of courageous action as we see Daniels give Tarzan a run for his money, swinging loosely outside the ship in one of the many attempts to kill the Engineer’s creation. It’s not easy to step into the shoes of a female protagonist in this franchise, especially those the same size of Sigourney Weavers’; however, Waterston perfectly depicts the survival instincts that enables her to create her own Ripley-esq character.
One crucial component that has been truly missed in these films are those darn eggs featuring the lovely Facehuggers. The iconic creature’s revival has been somewhat anticipated yet alike John Hurt’s disgustingly memorable interaction with one in Alien, it still sends shock waves to the heart when it leaps onto the face of its victim – more so knowing the brutal outcome. In Covenant’s case, it’s Oram who’s unlucky enough to get stuck with the hugger; it seems as though his poor decisions have caught up with him, in a rather life-threatening way. Seeing the creature return in the film certainly proves that the events of Prometheus were low key not too horrifying, marking the return of the old classic – shock factor at its best.
Alien: Covenant excels in terms of narrative and characterisation, it allows the audience to focus on what is key to the film. Aliens. Blood, and even more blood, mixed with a hint of life’s important themes. Scott should be applauded for binding the film together uniquely with its violent tone and strikingly stunning visuals. It’s overwhelming but it’s everything you want and need in an Alien film.
Check out a gallery of stills from the film below:
Alien: Covenant hits cinemas Friday (May 19) and is out in the UK now.